Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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New symbol to communicate the strength of encryption

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Let's say you have a credit card in your wallet with details on it protected by cryptography. Many people think that Government agencies can brute-force attack this cryptography and unlock their secrets. However, with this idea, your credit card will have a small symbol of the massive Three Gorges Dam hydro-electric power plant on the back to give you a feeling of security and reassurance that no one will ever bother trying.

What's the point of this? Well, there is a fundamental lower limit on the amount of energy that is needed to flip a bit in a computing device (about 0.0178 electron volts, at room temperature - see link #1). Flipping through the bits to look at every possible solution for a 128-bit key would require 262.7 TWh (see link #2), ignoring any computation needed to test the solutions - or roughly the annual output of the 22.5GW Three Gorges Dam hydro-electric plant.
hippo, Jun 11 2012

http://en.wikipedia...dauer%27s_principle [hippo, Jun 11 2012]

http://en.wikipedia.../Brute_force_attack [hippo, Jun 11 2012]

A better logo http://polyp.org.uk...artoon_Rat_Race.jpg
following on from [lurch]'s suggestion... [pocmloc, Jun 11 2012]

[link]






       The energy required for a brute force key search isn't all that relevant; cryptosystems are broken in practice by exploiting their structure to find attacks which are more efficient than brute force.
Wrongfellow, Jun 11 2012
  

       Yes, quite - (or more cheaply, crypto systems are broken by finding the guy with the key and threatening extreme violence) - but you can't deny that the energy limit to moving a bit from 1 to 0 or 0 to 1 is an interesting obstacle to brute-force attacks.
hippo, Jun 11 2012
  

       I wondered why my credit card has an image of a hamster in a wheel...
lurch, Jun 11 2012
  

       I find it poignant that, with all of the clever advancement and powerful technology we have today, the strongest encryption system is still the one-time pad (or electronic equivalents thereof).   

       If I may try my hand at something that is not my forté:   

       If a credit card contained a small single-function chip and miniscule power source, every card could be assigned a unique 128- or 256-bit one-time key that would change according to a simple Reimann formula every time a transaction was made. Unless the data archives of the credit card company were hacked from the inside (unlikely at best), it would be practically unbreakable. It would be totally immune to phreaking, since the phreaker would have the information stored on the card at the time it was surreptitiously scanned, but without the 'pad' written into the hard memory of the card itself, would have no way of determining the correct key when the card number was challenged during an illicit transaction process.
Alterother, Jun 11 2012
  

       I really like the OTP idea, assuming it's really difficult to conduct too many transactions in too short a time, or that the card electronically blanks each group of bits as it's used. The card could have an LED display for the user to copy a number for internet use. I think output as 20 numbers and letters would be entropic and easy enough. That idea deserves a separate posting.
Voice, Jun 11 2012
  

       I don't really know enough about math to support the idea, but I know a bit about cryptography (educated layman). Still, if you insist, I'll take a hack at it...
Alterother, Jun 11 2012
  

       Goddammit, I just posted it. Oh well.   

       I'll keep my post up, because it's a little different... probably not as good, but different. I'll bet you a quarter theirs doesn't use Zeta-function algorithms.   

       Good call, [bigs].
Alterother, Jun 11 2012
  

       I too don't think it's particularly a good idea to get hung up on the brute force attack, since it's basically the last thing you need to worry about - and is essentially trivial to specify when designing the system.   

       Alterother, I'm not clear on what your OTP credit card proposal does.
(Oh, this is now in it's own idea. Comment moved.)
Loris, Jun 12 2012
  
      
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